Pixies Diner – Restaurant Week

Pixies Interview

Middlesbrough Restaurant Week is back by popular demand for a third year. The feast of culinary delights has proved a huge hit with diners, who can take their pick of the town’s cosmopolitan cuisine ranging from Indian to Portuguese and noodles to the beloved parmo.

This year’s event runs from Monday, May 2 to Sunday, May 8, giving diners a new look at Middlesbrough’s foodie scene with a great range of special offers and exclusive menus.

We are going to take a closer look at all the participating eateries through the lens of Tracy Hyman and interviews from the management.

We begin with the glitz and glamour of America on Tees, Pixies Diner. Owner Rachel Whitehead talks corn dogs, Grease and pancakes with bacon and tells us about her special offers in May.

pixies 16Q: Are you looking forward to Restaurant Week?

Rachel: Yes I enjoy Restaurant Week. The past two that we have been involved in have both been a great hit, so we jumped on board again.

Q: Since it began three years ago I have noticed that there seem to be more and more restaurants and variety in Middlesbrough.

R: I think it is a good idea for those that have not tried it before to try out discounted price or get a bit of a special deal.

Q: It is obvious that peoples habits are changing these days and people eat out a lot more.

R: Yes it just shows when you look down Linthorpe Road the amount of restaurants that are opening and it is a good because there is a lot of variety as well.

Q: What will Pixies be offering for Restaurant Week?

R: We like to try some specials on it, so people can try the offer we have on the specials menu. This year we have bit the bullet and decided to do a Pixie Parmo. So we will see how the public respond to that.

pixies parmoWe are going to do the regular, every Italian or French restaurant do a parmo in Middlesbrough so why not an American one. We are going to do the good old regular parmo to keep all the die hards happy and then there is the Evil Pixie Parmo that has our Evil Pixie hot sauce on it. So that will be a bit of a twist on the hot shot parmo and then we are going to do a maple syrup and bacon parmo, which I have tried and it is amazing.

Q: That sounds an interesting mix of flavours.

R: People like pancakes with bacon and maple syrup on and it is really nice in a parmo.

Q: Is that unusual mix of flavours one of the attractions of Pixies, especially for the breakfasts?

R: Yes, the American breakfast is probably one of our best sellers. People like to try the pancake with bacon, it is really American. There are not a lot of places where you can get something like that. So it is very popular.

Q: Are you open right through from breakfast time?

R: Yes, 9.30am to 7pm.

Q: Do you get people coming in right through the day?

R: Yes. This morning at breakfast we were rushed but now in mid afternoon it is quieter so we get lunch at this time of the day and get stocked up for later on tonight.

Q: Are weekends good?

R: Saturdays and Sundays are really busy; we do get a lot of the younger crowd in. And a lot of families. Summer, Easter and Christmas holidays we are packed out.

Q: Does everyone like the themed environment in here?

R: Yes people really do like the theme, it is bright and colouful and a little bit different. The music is a little bit different although it is modern music but it maybe sounds a bit older.

Q: And you have so much on the walls too.

R: We have got all the authentic number plates; they have actually been on American cars. Sitting in booths is a little bit different and the kids love that they get their food served in either a pink Cadillac or a yellow taxi. That is a winner.

Q: It is a bit like being in to a film set.

R: We have tried to take a bit from Grease and Pulp Fiction and anything a little bit retro.

Q: Happy Days from when I was younger.

R: Well, we have got a juke box. Kick it if it stops working. (laughs).

Q: It is great to walk down Linthorpe Road and then you step inside and it is like crossing the Atlantic, into a different world.

R: It is yes. You are not in Middlesbrough anymore… until you see the parmo.

Q: You must have loved all those films yourself?

R: I did yes. I loved Grease growing up. Even Grease II but don’t tell anyone and I loved the songs but also my dad, my business partner, he really loved that era of music, Dreamboats and Petticoats and all the movies.

Q: It is a little bit of glam.

R: It is yes and it is quite popular, everyone likes to step back in time a little bit.

pixies interiorQ: But it is not just the environment it has to be about the food I assume.

R: Oh yes definitely, if it wasn’t for the food people wouldn’t come in I don’t think. The milkshakes are really popular, thick creamy milkshakes made with artisan ice cream, not the powdered type. Our home made burgers, pulled pork bagels. The majority of the food is home made. We make our own chillies, our spices of the wings, chicken wings, chicken burgers. It is family home cooked food.

Q: That is really appreciated I think that you can get home cooked food.

R: Yes, you know what is going in it then don’t you really.

We also do a small selection of beers. Including Coors Lite, that is actually Canadian.

We also do the corn dogs, that is very different.

Q: You mentioned corn dogs to me when we chatted last year. You said you were the only place doing them in Middlesbrough.

R: I think we still are. The recipe is off a friend of mine from New York. I travelled with her in Australia. It is a New York recipe.

Q: What exactly is a corn dog?

R: It is like a hot dog in a doughnut but it is not that sweet. The corn batter is spongy like a doughnut but it is battered because it is deep friend. It is strange. It comes on a hot dog stick. It is really nice. But regulars come in for a corn dog because they know it is the only place they can get one. Everyone should try one. Like, everyone should try pancakes and bacon. Just once. Don’t be scared of it.

Q: There seem to be a lot of mixes of sweet and savoury.

R: Yes, we just mix it up. A couple of people have mentioned chicken and waffles to me on facebook, having been to America. So we made it, to see what it is like and it was amazing. So I might put that in the specials and it might be on next year’s Restaurant Week.

Q: I am lucky enough to have been to New York and attended a baseball game and everyone has breaks for hot dogs and the like. It reminds me of that.

R: I would love to go to a baseball game and see the New York Yankees. You see them with the hot dogs and mustard and corn dogs on sticks.

People here like the big tall New York stacker sandwiches they are very popular. Bagels, pulled pork bagels.

Q: Pulled pork seems very popular at the moment.

R: Yes, everyone likes pulled pork. We do our own recipe. It is cooked in the oven for six hours with Dr Pepper. Another sweet and savoury combination. Americans like mixing them together. I love it.

Q: Have you travelled in USA yourself?

R: Yes, I have been to New York but most of my travelling has been in Australia. I went travelling there for a while. When we first had the idea of opening Pixies it wasn’t going to be an American Diner but we wanted to open somewhere different. We were looking at different concepts and then we just put in things we liked. Dad wanted a jukebox. I wanted booth seating. And we thought just go the whole hog and make it look like an American Diner. But it is not a full on American Diner because it has still got the English breakfast and paninis. We try and keep everyone happy.

We wanted the style to really stand out from the other restaurants and coffee shops because there are an awful lot of food places so you need somewhere that stands out.

Q: It screams fun I think.

R: Yes. Another thing that has been picking up a lot is parties. Children’s parties and adult parties. We will either do kids parties because it is bright and colourful and they can have a little dance with their friends at the front and the food comes served in little cars. Or it is people from the era that liked the 40s and 50s, older people like to have their parties here and hear the music and reminisce, whereas in between not so much. So, we appeal to the younger children for the fun factor and then older people because they can reminisce when they used to listen to Frank Sinatra and Elvis.

The older teens and twenties come in but not for parties.

Q: Is Pixies a hit with students? Maybe not for parties.

R: We get a lot of students so we notice when they are not here. That is why we are constantly looking for new things and listening to what people want and changing the menu so we don’t just appeal to students. Figuring out what works and doesn’t.

Q: I have noticed that many people seem to have more time at lunchtime. Not rushing out to grab sandwiches and racing back to offices.

R:  Some people do sit in here and have a meeting and have a couple of coffees. We have free wifi in here and people take advantage of that while they are eating. We did try sandwiches but there are a lot of other take out places.
We try all sorts but the main things that work are the American breakfasts, the big burgers, the hot sauce pancakes with bacon.

Q: So, hopefully people will come in during Restaurant Week and try out the offers and enjoy the Pixies experience.

R: We have had people that have come in during Breakfast Week from Middlesbrough but not tried us before and then they will come in again because they have really enjoyed it.

Photos Tracy Hyman

restaurant weekPixies Diner

176 Linthorpe Road

01642 243807

Open Monday to Thursday from 9:30am-19:00pm and Friday and Saturday from 9:30am – 21:00pm.


Middlesbrough Restaurant Week – Monday 2nd – Sunday 8th May 2016



Sign Up For Futsal Scholarship with MFC Foundation

Would you fancy playing a new fast developing sport while continuing your education? MFC Foundation staff are casting their net for new signings for their Futsal and Education Scholarship. It is a 2 year course where the learners study a Level 3 Extended Diploma in Sport (equivalent of 3 A levels) and compete in the Football League Trust Futsal League starting September 2016.

I chatted with MFC Foundation Education Tutor, Andrew Downey to find out more about what they have to offer.

Q: Can you tell me something about the course you will be offering in September?

AD: It is a level 3 extended diploma BTEC Sports studying performance and excellence. It is the equivalent of up to 3 A Levels for post 16 students. A 2 year course studying 19 different sports units.

Q: There is a lot involved there.

AD: Yes 19 different units which obviously opens different avenues for different jobs in sport. For example one day they could be studying sports nutrition, the next unit they could be doing sports coaching and after that it could be instructing physical activity. So a big range of sports modules covered.

Q: Where would the students be based?

AD: Based here at the Riverside Stadium. We have classrooms in the East Stand in the Willie Maddren Centre.

Q: What sort of intake are you hoping to attract?

AD: We are looking to get about 20 new students for the start of September 2016. We are looking to grow all the time. We have grown year on year. So hopefully we will grow even bigger this year.

Q: How many years have you been offering the futsal courses?

AD: This is going to be the fourth year. So from four years the students have moved on to different things.

Q: Have you stayed in touch to find out how some of those that have gone through your futsal courses have progressed afterwards?

AD: Yes, some of the lads are quite local. One lad is working part time with the Foundation at the Herlingshaw Centre, Eston while he studies at University. I have seen other ex students that have worked in part time jobs as well as still being at University. So, there are some outcomes.

Q: It is part of Middlesbrough Football Club, so I suppose anyone signing up becomes part of the Boro, don’t they?

AD: It is yes. It is a massive draw to be part of the club, learning at the Riverside Stadium. There are lots of quirky benefits from being with us. You could be volunteering on some of our other projects. You could be doing part time work with MFC Foundation on some of the other great projects we run. So there are really big benefits of being involved with us.

Q: So does the qualification have a balance of practical and theory, sport and education?

AD:  Yes, a big mix of everything involved with sport, theory, some practical assessment, fitness testing or risk assessment. It might be sports coaching, some practical assessments, as well as the theory, which is your standard assignments.

Q: Not everybody reading this will be aware of what Futsal is. Could you please just tell us a little about Futsal.

AD: Futsal is a variation of football. It is a five-a-side indoor game. On a smaller court. The ball is heavier. It has 30% less bounce which means the ball stays on the floor. The idea is that everybody is comfortable to receive the ball at any position on the court. To promote being comfortable on the ball and being able to play out of tight positions, flare and attacking football.

Q: Am I right in saying that Futsal originated in South America?

AD: That is right so some current Boro players will have played this before. Lots of very big players have attributed their eleven a side success to the smaller game. Cristiano Ronaldo, even going back to Pele, some of the great players that have played this before moving on to the eleven a side game.

Q: Futsal is sometimes televised and is a big game in its own right now isn’t it?

AD: It is growing in the UK. It is really taking off. The competition we play in is the Football League Trust Futsal League. So the lads go down to Leeds Futsal Arena once every two weeks and play against Leeds United, Sheff Wed, Sheff Utd, Bradford City and all the other Football League clubs that are involved in the project.

Q: Futsal is FIFA recognised and there are international tournaments are there not?

AD: That’s right. International tournaments that are obviously what some of our lads might aspire to play in. We have had some really good success with the national tournaments. Last year we reached the semi final of a national cup and the lads were covered on Soccer Am once or twice. So we have had some really good success in the leagues and in the cups as well.

Q: Is this a sport where someone could sign up to a course and start up from scratch?

AD: You don’t have to be a great Futsal player to come on. We have actually had three of our students that have earned international call ups. So we have two involved with the England set up and one involved with the Scotland set-up. These are lads that have not had a great deal of Futsal experience before so we have had some really good success and some really big improvements in some of the players since they have joined our course.

mfc futsal 1Q: What are you looking at for educational requirements?

AD: The type of people that normally come on to us have done some kind of GCSE PE or they have done some kind of BTEC in school. English and Maths are really important. So they need a C in English and Maths to get onto the course. But generally it is a bit of a PE background and someone looking to have some sort of career in sport in the future.

Q: We are sitting here in the Willie Maddren Centre at the Riverside. Are any of the Boro youngsters playing Futsal at present?

AD: The Academy are trying to introduce Futsal, which will mean that hopefully in five years time everyone under 15 level in the Academy would have a Futsal background but that is not confirmed as yet.

Q: So, football in general is moving towards Futsal because of the high skill level etc.

AD: It is constantly growing. It is a high skill level. If you want all your players to be comfortable on the ball in every position on the court. That can be transferred straight to the eleven a side game. So there are really big positives of starting to play Futsal and trying to improve your Futsal and football skills.

Q: So this looks like being quite exciting times for anyone moving into Futsal and taking your course.

AD: It is. It is quite a unique opportunity. There are not many places where you can study and play Futsal in the environment and competitions that we can offer here. So, we think we have got a unique opportunity to offer young people.

Q: There could be a lot of doors opening for those taking up Futsal with you over the next few years.

AD: There could be and that could be doors opening from a performance point of view or doors opening from a employability point of view or doors opening from a further study point of view. There are lots of benefits from coming on this course. It might be that in two years time, people that are in Year 11 now are looking to go to University. We have some great exit routes of past students moving on to University. We have had some great exit routes of people that have finished our course going on to full time work. We have had past students go to America, coaching. So, we have had some really positive exit routes from people that have finished the course.

Q: So if you are coming up to leaving school and are keen on PE and would like to continue with sport this could be quite an exciting, innovative course to move onto.

AD: We think we are a bit of a hidden gem. We can offer a really exciting, unique opportunity. An opportunity for you to play against Leeds United, play against Bradford City, play against Sheffield Wednesday. Play against other professional clubs representing Middlesbrough Football Club Foundation while you are learning, while you are gaining your BTEC Sport.
MFC Foundation Futsal

futsal flyerPlease Email: andrew.downey@mfcfoundation.co.uk



Ayresome Park Portrait Painter Paul Town

Paul Town has a passion for football and painting. He has combined the two interests to paint portraits of football stadia. I think you will be really interested in his painting, just recently completed of Ayresome Park. It is available to buy.
I met Paul when I was working on the excavation of the Bradford Park Avenue ground last summer. He brought some of his paintings of the former ground down to the dig and they so captured the atmosphere and the architecture that it almost felt like he was bringing the old place back to life again.
Paul is a real dedicated historian in researching his paintings. At Bradford Park Avenue he spent hours interviewing people and also testing sight lines for himself before embarking on a commission of the old ground from the much loved, Doll’s House.

I diverted off route to a Boro away game to have a look at Paul’s Stadium Portraits shop at a Christmas Fayre back in December. I spent so long looking at his paintings of old Valley Parade, Molineux, Elland Road etc that I almost missed the kick off the Boro away game at Huddersfield.
Talking of Huddersfield it would have been the old Leeds Road ground rather than the present John Smith’s that would grab the brush and attention of Paul. On his Christmas fayre stand there various iconic Archibald Leitch stadia represented from England and Scotland. Ayresome Park, opened in 1903 followed Park Avenue as a Leitch engineered construction.
I decided to ask Paul a few questions about how and why he has moved on from being a builder to a portrait painter of football stadiums.

How did you get interested in painting old grounds?
My interest began in painting the old classic stadiums around 3 years ago. I used to sketch the stadiums I had visited whilst watching my hometown club Bradford City. Ayresome Park was one of the grounds I looked forward to visiting, as it had character and a great atmosphere. The grounds these days are in my opinion all too similar and soulless. I see it as my job now to bring those distant memories back to the true supporter, with an atmospheric twist.
How long have you been a Bradford City fan?
I’ve followed Bradford City since the mid 1970s. I suppose our history, the ground and the unfortunate tragic disaster we had in 1985 has compounded my interest in the old stadiums. Valley Parade was a ramshackle ground before the fire, however we have seen the stadium rise from the ashes as a memorial to the fans that lost they’re lives. It is something that will live with me forever. I was lucky to escape the inferno, however the memories and sadness for the lost and injured is still very painful almost 31 years on. There is a fantastic spirit and bond around the club; it’s almost like we feel a need to support the club through thick and thin because of this.
Did the painting begin as a hobby?
Painting stadiums did start out as a hobby, although to my surprise it very quickly turned into a business, from which turned full time around 12 months ago. I’ve managed to sell portraits of various clubs stadiums worldwide. One of my next commissions is the old Polo Grounds Baseball stadium in New York. This is my dream job, and I’m very lucky. It’s all I ever wanted to be from childhood, a professional artist.
Do you paint individual commissions?
Around 3 years ago I started painting various stadiums on a whim. My main objective was to try to paint the old Bradford Park Avenue stadium to perfection, since I’ve received numerous commissions to paint the old ground. It’s actually my all time favourite stadium, which as a City fan takes some saying, but if honest how could you not love it. Full of character with a spooky presence. Also my father scored a goal in a trials match there, so it’s always remained special.
In between commissioned pieces I paint any stadium I choose to then produce prints of to sell. On most occasions the originals will sell also. This can lead to further commissions from supporters of that club. This is my second Ayresome Park portrait.
Tell us more about the Ayresome Park painting?
My first Ayresome portrait was painted with a view looking across to the main stand from the corner of the Holgate terrace. For this present portrait I decided to choose the opposite end, with a floodlit scene versus Newcastle from the 1970s. It’s the era I loved and watching the games on tv was always a special experience for me as a youngster. I was obsessed by the stadiums and crowd noises.
Do people miss the old stadiums do you think and the individual character of their structures?
Football grounds today are much of a muchness to me. The old stadiums had character in abundance. Archibald Leitch whose engineering skills shaped many of the stadiums within the UK is my hero. His eye for not only maximising capacities, but building stunning stands was unique. I feel we have lost our way with stadia design. It would be superb to see elements of the past incorporated with the modern arenas. Sadly I don’t believe the architects today understand.
Take a look at some of Paul’s paintings on his website. The Ayresome Park painting is now finished and available to buy.
Stadium Portraits

ayresome paul town


Marathon Man’s Epic Challenge to Beat the Bullies

When I was little I had two ambitions in life to run a marathon and swim the Channel, while I seriously doubt I will ever do the swim I came the closest yet to completing a marathon thanks to the incredible motivational efforts of an extraordinary man, Ben Smith.

ben smith pointA couple of weeks ago I joined members of Swift-Tees community running club in supporting mega marathon runner Ben Smith on the Middlesbrough leg of his remarkable record quest, to run Britain by completing 401 marathons in 401 days. It was a record attempt he embarked on last September and has run every day since, including Christmas Day. Ben was on number 176 when he set off on a sunny morning beneath Middlesbrough Town Hall. Flanked by about two dozen men and women in sky blue Swift-Tees tops Ben set off on a circuit of pretty much the whole of Middlesbrough to its very southern, eastern and almost western limits.

During the day the runners received a boost of running through the Riverside Stadium before passing alongside the riverside footpath of the River Tees, once the ironmasters district and the home to 100 smoking foundries. We passed two iconic bridges, in the Transporter and Newport. The school of one time England and Leeds football manager Don Revie, Archibald School was en route before the first of our three primary school stop overs.

Ben’s quest is all about raising money and awareness for two anti-bullying charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. You can help him achieve his monetary targets by clicking no the link at the end of this article.

ben smith marathon schhol 2The kids at Acklam Whin school came out to greet us all with high fives and loud cheers. It was then almost time for a welcoming bacon butty at Swift-Tees HQ, the Habinteg Centre, Hemlington but first a circuit of the lake, looking lovely under Swift-Tees blue skies and in the sunshine.

I meant to quit at this point but it seemed churlish not to see the kids at my old school Captain Cook, Marton where we once again received a great welcome.

I thought I might as well run up Dixons Bank, I couldn’t let myself down in front of the cross country team from Chandlers Ridge School. After Chandlers Ridge it was the children of Nunthorpe Primary School out on the pavements to provide an honorary guard past their school.

Ormesby Bank is down hill isn’t it? So, there was no point in stopping at the top. What a great view of the Transporter Bridge and the whole of Teesside industry and Empire as you are descending. It was a real buzz that so many motorists hooted and waved their support for Ben along the route, particularly as my legs were starting to become detached from my brain at this point and threatening to fall off my aching body in open rebellion. It is fair to say that I was almost crawling by the time I reached Marton Grove and the entrance to Stewart Park. Once inside Henry’s café I was finished, completely washed up, over and out and disappearing inside my tea and cake. My 16 miles or so was the furthest I had ever run but I was at a standstill now.

Ben and the Swift-Tees were only half done and soon set off again to lap the park before heading down Marton Road and on to Albert Park and back to the town, once home to Ben in his student days.

ben smith marathon stewart park
I grabbed Ben for a quick chat along the way. I was keen to know what motivated the motivator.

Q: What motivated you to start this challenge?

BS: I suppose the real reason was that I wanted to try and raise £250k for two anti-bullying charities and I didn’t really know how I was going to do that but I found running about 2 and half years ago which basically helped me with my confidence and self esteem. It seemed like a perfect match made in heaven really to use running to raise money for the two anti-bullying charities.

Q: Running does liberate people and as we see from looking around us here at Swift-Tees community group it makes a big difference to peoples lives, doesn’t it?

BS: Oh yes definitely. We have seen it in the project so far. Over the past 176 days we have had over 100 people run their first marathon with us and over 350 people have run further than they have ever run before. Plus we have had over 3600 people actually come out to run with the project. So, you can see the joy people get from it. Yes it is predominantly people from within the running community. But for people to be pushing themselves, to be able to express themselves through running, you can see how powerful that makes them.

Q: Am I right in thinking you have connections to Teesside?

BS: Yes, I was a student in Teesside for four years.

Q: At Teesside University?

BS: Yes I left there, probably around 10 or 11 years ago. So, obviously going through the town this morning I saw a few changes. It will be nice to see it as we run back into town. I might take a bit of a stroll around later.

Q: You parked your mobile home at the Riverside. Did you enjoy running past and through the stadium?

BS: Obviously it was ten years ago now but I was told as a student never to go across the border. But having seen the border and gone through Middlehaven, the development around there is absolutely stunning and it looks like it is a real up and coming area. So, it is nice to see the changes in Middlesbrough.

Q: Having been away for a decade you can see real change then?

BS: Yes. I think the town deserves the changes because I remember when I was here that it has had some tough times in the past but the people I always found to be amazing. The people would open their doors to you and offer you everything they had. That’s why I have been looking forward to coming back.

I have been staying with a couple and their two kids (they run TP coffee house at Python Gallery, Middlesbrough). They don’t know me from Adam and I don’t know them from Adam but as soon as I walked in I was greeted by a hug. Northern hospitality. They said our house is your house for the next few days, do what you want.

You don’t get that in many places. I have got that a lot doing this but it seems to be more prominent in the north where people will give you everything they have got.

Q: You have been doing these marathons since September so you must run through some awful winter weather?

BS: Oh yes. Every storm. What are we on now, I at the moment ? I am just waiting for J. Yes it has been pretty full on with 60-70mph winds, rain in your face going up hills, being blown off mountains. It has been a journey but do you know what I have enjoyed every single bloody minute of it. Too right.

Q: And you have met and inspired an awful lot of people?

BS: Yes.

Q: You are not quite half way through the 401 challenge.

BS: No, 23 days left. Or 23 and a half if you want to be pernickerty. My half way point is on the 19th March in Glasgow. Half way through my 201st marathon. So I am kind of looking forward to that. But obviously I have got the whole of the north east to go through first, all the way up through Northumberland. I am going to be seeing some beautiful parts of the coastline, up there near Alnwick, Morpeth and up towards Berwick. Then I will be going up through the Scottish borders, to Dalkeith, through Galashiels, heading all the way up to Edinburgh and across to Glasgow. Before I then to descend in the first weeks of April back into the main body of England to do all the official marathons that are happening in April.

Then I will be back up this way, end of May time, for a few more runs in the north east. So, everybody is welcome to come and join me.

Q: This must have taken a phenomenal amount of planning.

BS: Yes it took two and a half years. Obviously you can imagine the planning logistics are huge and I have a phenomenal operations team that I work with and it is actually my mum and dad. They look after all the accommodation, dealing with the routes and all the management of my laundry, my meals. Obviously they manage the website and all the get-involved sections on there. They also work with over 300 therapists, over 200 running clubs. They have a Project manager that works with all the branding and all the media and all other aspects, which is fantastic. Without them I couldn’t do this. They are as big a part of the team as I am. And then I have got my other half who is so supportive of what I am doing. You will know yourself as a runner, your other half might not appreciate why you run, whereas mine does. He doesn’t run but he appreciates why I run and he is supportive about that. So he is right behind me which is great.

Q: Great luck with reaching this and all your targets.

BS: Cheers and much appreciated.

ben smith marathon 1Ben is keen to underline he is just an ordinary bloke not actually an ultra athlete or anything iron. But this mild mannered man is surely something of a superman. What an incredible inspirational athlete. If he helps one child in their battles for confidence against the scourge of bullying then that has also been a real victory.

It was a day of so many personal achievements. There were 42 runners in all joining Ben on at least part of the route. One North Yorks Moors Athletic Club “runner” was still in a baby buggy. Swift-Tees runners Julian Spoor, Mark Grace, Kerri Muldowney, Pauline Percy and Bill Lewis all completed marathons for the first time and were far from running on empty as they sighted the Town Hall for the second time in the day. In fact it was Julian’s first half marathon let alone marathon.

Julian and the authorDean McCormack and David Jukes both ran further than ever before and joined Swift-Tees afterwards. Lucy Spoor and Chris Jones both ran 20 miles for the first time. Kerry Jarvis ran 16 miles for the first time. A Chinese student called Andy, newly arrived on Teesside, read about the marathon on this blog the day before and then put on his running shoes and just kept running all the way around. He had never run a marathon before, thank Mr Motivator, Ben Smith for that. Please do get in touch and I will add your full name to this list.

ben ionaIona completed the whole marathon as well as being organiser, along with husband Rob, who was taking these photos along the way too. Thanks for the photos, Rob. Pauline Percy was there from start to finishing line. Swift-Tees super coach Craig Lightfoot was there start to finish, as well as Bill Sigsworth and Jon Tapper. Tom Bunn and Mark Brown ran all the way also. Personal thanks to Rosanne Lightfoot who along with Liz Swainston encouraged me not to give up on the road to Stewart Park. Rosanne and Linda Sigsworth completed 16 miles.

Great credit to Iona Leigh-Jones for planning this marathon leg and the schools and children for getting on board.

Ben said it really put the smile back on his face again and the way the community opened their arms to him may well turn out to be one of his highlights of his British tour.

Please support Ben in his marathon challenge against bullying. You can donate on his site.

Have a look at Ben Smith’s progress through this challenge and donate to his anti-bullying charities on his website the401challenge


New Departures at Middlesbrough Station

As you are scurrying too or from your train at Middlesbrough Station there are a few new destinations that might well catch the eye. Middlesbrough artist Eugene Schlumberger is celebrating his love of music and photography with an eye catching and thought provoking exhibition in the tunnel gallery. The gallery on the white wall tiles of the underground passage between platforms is now adorned with the mock book covers designed by Eugene. They are cover photos of local townscape images that Eugene has ascribed to musicians.
Inspired by the Pelican Press book covers of the 1960s, Eugene has paired up images with musical artists in a way that invites thought and draws conversation. It will also maybe have you frantically looking up artists and researching titles or making a mental note to check your music collection back home.
eugene tunnel mesI didn’t say on your iphone because there is something very analogue about a world in which for example Eugene pictures cooling towers as the front cover to Industrial Estate by Mark E Smith. Industrial Estate featured on The Fall’s first ever long playing vinyl Live at the Witch Trials, released back in 1979.
It is fascinating to think about the story beyond the lyrics and music that could lay behind those imaginary book covers. The photos themselves are really striking. Eugene has an eye for the overlooked, the neglected, the under dogs of architecture and urban planning.
Yes, it is a very different Middlesbrough and Teesside that Eugene invites us to look and think about to that pictured in the large bright Mackenzie Thorpe railway posters on the platforms above. This is the underground domain in every sense.
After I had taken a look around and also snapped a few photos on my phone I messaged Eugene about his artwork which will be on show for the rest of the month.
“The images do seem to fit the environment,” Eugene told me and he is not wrong.
It is amazing to think how the Tunnel has been transformed from a damp, dark place of fear and danger, a passageway over (under) the border. Now it is a safe, light and welcoming entrance to Middlesbrough with its evocative tiling and architectural features and engineering on show along with art on display.
eugene tunnel 1“I’ve had quite a lot of people contact me about the exhibition, which is great,” Eugene said and then added, “If it makes someone look up a singer or a band that would be great.” Why would Andrew Morgan be picturing a lonely sentinel of Church House through a window for the cover of his View From Nowhere?
Eugene told me that since the exhibition has gone on display he has been contacted about the use of one of the images on the reissue of an album. “That’s amazingly exciting,”
You could say that is life imitating art or is it the other way around?

Do stop to peruse Eugene Schlumberger’s exhibition (but not much more) the next time you are passing through the Tunnel Gallery. You can buy prints of Eugenes work in the shop at mima.



eugene tunnel 2